Uncle Sam and Hitler: did America inspire the Nazis’ race laws?

Tim Stanley in The Telegraph:

Klan-2-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8I have to break a golden rule. Normally, I hate it when people compare today to the Thirties: the link is lazy and often wrong. Donald Trump is not Hitler; neither is Brexit, the EU, or this cold I can’t shift. But sometimes politicians inadvertently make the comparison hard to deny, as when congressman Steve King of Iowa tweeted his support for Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders ahead of the Netherlands election, adding that America and Europe cannot save their civilisation by importing foreign babies. This remark, straight out of the Thirties, makes the publication of Hitler’s American Model stunningly well-timed. In his new book, the Yale professor James Q Whitman argues that the Nazis looked to the United States when writing their race laws. Critics will say that Whitman makes too much of his German sources, or that his narrow focus obscures the wider context – that the roots of Nazi race law, which sought to define citizenship by blood, really lie in 19th-century romanticism, the pseudoscience of eugenics, Hitler’s evil and the ordinary Nazi party members’ demands for radical action.

Nevertheless, there’s a taboo about US innocence that needs breaking here – and Whitman grinds it underfoot. How could Uncle Sam provide any source material for Nazi race laws? America, which was founded on the principles of liberty and equality, later joined the war in Europe to defeat fascism – how could the Germans see anything there but an ideological opposite? You’d be surprised. As Whitman notes, when Hitler was writing Mein Kampf he looked around the world for an example of a state that understood the benefits of racial purity, and found only one: “The American Union categorically refuses the immigration of physically unhealthy elements, and simply excludes the immigration of certain races. In these respects, America already pays obeisance, at least in tentative first steps, to the characteristic volkische conception of the state.”

More here.